Male fertility issues affect around 40% of all couples who are struggling to fall pregnant, so when I meet a couple and start investigating to find a cause I look into both partners medical history. The most common causes for male infertility include lifestyle factors, abnormal sperm production or function, problems with delivery of sperm, chromosome, and DNA abnormalities. Fortunately, most causes are relatively simple to diagnose and some can be treated to increase chances of conception. Others need assistance to overcome their limitation.
Part of your initial consultation will include questions about your age, weight, smoking and drinking habits, use of recreational drugs (Marijuana in particular has an adverse effect on sperm health) or steroids, your work environment, medical and surgical history. Generally, I’ll arrange an appointment for you to provide a sperm sample so a semen analysis can be undertaken through the laboratory at Queensland Fertility Group. This can be a little daunting for some men, so you can make arrangements with QFG to collect the sample at home and drop it off to the lab. However, this must be done within 60 minutes of ejaculation. If you live too far away there is a private, comfortable room in the Queensland Fertility Group suites at Pindara Place, right next door to our clinic. It’s set up with visual aids (magazines and TV) and your partner can go in with you too. It’s ideal to abstain from ejaculation for 3-5 days prior to your sample otherwise it can give abnormal results.
The semen analysis is a simple test that tells us a lot about your fertility, as it accurately measures the number of sperm, their motility (ability to move), their morphology (size and shape), and the volume and consistency of the ejaculated sample. There can be a few issues that we may find with your sperm including:
- Azoospermia- an absence of any sperm in the semen
- Oligospermia- low numbers of sperm in the semen
- Asthenozoospermia – poor motility
- Teratospermia – abnormal sperm morphology
- Sperm antibodies
- Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) – detects raised levels of sperm DNA fragmentation (damaged DNA in sperm) which have the potential to reduce the likelihood of embryos implanting or pregnancies continuing.
The good news is, sperm have a lifecycle of 72 days, so even if your results indicate there may be problem, you might be able to improve things with simple diet and lifestyle changes.
While some fertility issues are genetic or out of your control, there are some things you can do to look after your general health to increase your chances of conception. Diet and exercise can play a big part in your health and wellbeing. While they can be dirty words to some of us we’re not here to suggest you suddenly take up marathons or starve yourself, but we do believe in eating a diet that’s rich in nutrient dense fruit and veg as well as good protein and oil. And of course, low GI carbohydrates for sustained energy. Quality produce is important too, so don’t sacrifice the grass-fed lean beef to get that extra packet of chocolate bikkies. If you’re not sure what foods make up a good healthy diet, chat with your GP or me during your consultation. I also recommend starting a men’s multi-vitamin with antioxidants. Involving a Dietician as part of your fertility journey isn’t a bad option either.
When it comes to exercise you should never start a new routine without discussing it with your doctor first, especially if you don’t normally exercise. But exercise can help you lose those extra pounds that might be holding you back. Think of your body like a car – you have to put fuel in to travel a certain distance. Our bodies are the same. So, you have to put enough sustenance in to give you the fuel to get you through your day. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake Vs your physical expenditure. That way your body starts to burn the excess fat reserves you’ve been storing. Losing weight, especially around your waist is very important for your heart health also.
Meditation is another great way to look after yourself, especially if you’re worried or stressed. If meditation were a pill, you’d probably take it, but in reality, it does require you to set aside time for yourself, away from the telly or work. You’ve heard all about its much-lauded de-stressing capabilities; you’ve read that it boosts immunity, regulates sleep, and enhances memory, focus, and your grey matter; you know successful, smart people do it like Bill Gates, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and all those geniuses at Google; so what’s stopping you? We’d like to encourage you to do some research and find a meditation App or program you feel comfortable with. You’ll thank us for it.
So “Healthy Choices” aren’t as daunting as they first might seem. However, they do take a conscious effort on your part, planning and a little dedication. But think of the rewards.
When women are experiencing fertility issues they turn to their girlfriends and their family and they talk. They’re good at expressing their feelings and concerns and aren’t afraid to cry and let it all out. Men are built a little differently. For some reason we prefer to bottle up and compartmentalise problems, pushing them to the back of our thoughts. But that’s not healthy. If you can, find one mate you trust who you can talk to openly about what you’re going through. It’s good to get another man’s opinions and he might have some helpful info to offer you. But more than anything, when you get things off your chest and realise, you’re supported, it reduces your stress levels. And if you’re too stressed THAT could be having an impact on your issues.
Your partner is obviously going to be the person you feel most comfortable with talking to about this. And that’s the way it should be. But remember to spend quality time together focussing on the good things happening in your life right now. A positive focus and outlook are also beneficial to your emotional health.
If you come to see me, I’ll be talking with you in layman’s terms about your personal situation. I don’t beat around the bush, but I am supportive and understanding. My experience and qualifications span a 30-year career and I am continually keeping up with new research and techniques. Male infertility has the potential to be demasculating, so if you feel you need some extra support from outside your inner circle, I can also put you in contact with some fantastic counsellors who specialise in fertility concerns.
Further Tests and Treatments
Every couple I see has a unique set of circumstances affecting their conception, however here are some of the common treatments we may use to improve your fertility and increase your chance of falling pregnant.
- ICSI treatment (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) – This is performed in conjunction with an IVF cycle. It involves the injection of a single sperm into each egg. This treatment is usually recommended for couples where male fertility is a problem, generally regarding quality of sperm.
- A Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) – A minimally invasive procedure performed under general anaesthetic, where sperm is retrieved by a fine needle. This technology can be used if a man has had a vasectomy.
I’m Here For You Both
The big purpose of this page is to let you know I understand your concerns and fears, and I’m here to support you as well as your partner. I always offer professional medical advice but deliver it in a way that is easy to understand. I don’t want your appointments to be intimidating. I want you to be comfortable in yourself and confident in me, so we can work as a team to achieve your family goals.